Yuugao-centric drabble, set after Hayate's death over the one-month period between the preliminaries and the third exam. Set along the same basic timeline as Positivity and Touch. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me; I just borrow it sometimes. The setting and characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi.

Waking to a Dream

There are times when Yuugao feels as if she is dreaming. Every movement, faster than the naked eye can properly track, feels like nothing but a hazy drift in the air; every muffled scream of the victims of her sword sounds so distant and far away. Even the words she so determinedly uttered at his grave barely echo in her mind.

She buries herself in her work, takes on mission after mission just to avoid thinking about it - part of her knows it's unhealthy, but with the rising suspicion against Suna after his death, ANBU has its hands full and it's all she can do not to collapse under her the weight of her work. (There is also a part of her that likes the pressure, the fact that she can never tell when or if it will lift - it takes a certain kind of shinobi to survive ANBU.)

But it is on those few nights that she returns home to sleep that she feels as if she is truly awake. She is certain she sleeps with her eyes open and she sees him again, fresh and bright and alive, but it's only in her sleep and when she wakes again, she still feels she is waking to a dream. She still feels as if everything is in slow motion as she covers her face with the animal mask, drops down to the ground for the silent kill. She has no idea how much time has passed between kills, between missions, between her lover's death and Sandaime's. She has no sense of time anymore; all she has left is a sense of duty.